Chimpanzees use botanical skills to discover fruit

April 10, 2013, Max Planck Society
This image shows chimpanzees gazing up tree crowns in search for fruit. Credit: Ammie Kalan

(Phys.org) —Fruit-eating animals are known to use their spatial memory to relocate fruit, yet, it is unclear how they manage to find fruit in the first place. Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have now investigated which strategies chimpanzees in the Taï National Park in Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa, use in order to find fruit in the rain forest. The result: Chimpanzees know that trees of certain species produce fruit simultaneously and use this botanical knowledge during their daily search for fruit.

To investigate if know that if a tree is carrying fruit, then other trees of the same species are likely to carry fruit as well, the researchers conducted observations of their inspections, i.e. the visual checking of fruit availability in tree crowns. They focused their analyses on recordings in which they saw chimpanzees inspect empty trees, when they made "mistakes".

By analysing these "mistakes", the researchers were able to exclude that of fruit had triggered the inspection and were the first to learn that chimpanzees had expectations of finding fruit days before feeding on it. They, in addition, significantly increased their expectations of finding fruit after tasting the first fruit in season. "They did not simply develop a 'taste' for specific fruit on which they had fed frequently", says Karline Janmaat. "Instead, inspection probability was predicted by a particular botanical feature - the level of synchrony in of the species of encountered trees."

The researchers conclude that chimpanzees know that trees of certain species produce fruit simultaneously and use this information during their daily search for fruit. They base their expectations of finding fruit on a combination of botanical knowledge founded on the success rates of fruit discovery and an ability to categorize fruits into . "Our results provide new insights into the variety of food-finding strategies employed by our close relatives, the chimpanzees, and may well elucidate the evolutionary origins of categorization abilities and abstract thinking in humans", says Christophe Boesch, director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology's Department of Primatology.

Explore further: In chimpanzees, hunting and meat-eating is a man's business

More information: Karline R. L. Janmaat, Simone D. Ban & Christophe Boesch, Taï Chimpanzees use Botanical Skills to Discover Fruit: What we can Learn from their Mistakes, Animal Cognition, 10 April 2013

Related Stories

In chimpanzees, hunting and meat-eating is a man's business

March 26, 2013

(Phys.org) —Observations of hunting and meat eating in our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, suggest that regular inclusion of meat in the diet is not a characteristic unique to Homo. Wild chimpanzees are known to ...

You are what you eat

March 7, 2012

Fruit and vegetable consumption is correlated with changes in skin redness and yellowness, as reported in the Mar. 7 issue of the open access journal PLoS ONE.

Fighting back against citrus greening

January 25, 2013

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists in Fort Pierce, Fla. are helping citrus growers and juice processors address the threat posed by Huanglongbing (HLB), a disease that is costing the citrus industry millions ...

Ebola outbreaks killing thousands of gorillas and chimpanzees

April 16, 2007

Why have large outbreaks of Ebola virus killed tens of thousands of gorillas and chimpanzees over the last decade? Observations published in the May issue of The American Naturalist provide new clues, suggesting that outbreaks ...

Recommended for you

Scientists shed light on biological roots of individuality

February 16, 2018

Put 50 newborn worms in 50 separate containers, and they'll all start looking for food at roughly the same time. Like members of other species, microscopic C. elegans roundworms tend to act like other individuals their own ...

Plants are given a new family tree

February 16, 2018

A new genealogy of plant evolution, led by researchers at the University of Bristol, shows that the first plants to conquer land were a complex species, challenging long-held assumptions about plant evolution.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.